Our former colleague Jay Mariotti weighs in on the highly talented and widely hated North Carolina big man Tyler Hansbrough tonight, saying that all his haters need to get a life.
Hansbrough set the Atlantic Coast Conference career scoring record this afternoon in the Tar Heels’ dismantling of Radford. As the crowd gave him a standing ovation, the senior opted not to acknowledge the crowd, choosing instead to focus on the game he was playing in — and to respect his opponent.
Once I got the standing ovation, I thought about waving. But I didn’t want disrespect to anybody, he said. I just wanted to stay focused on the game. I came here to win the game today. I didn’t want to focus on individual goals.
Mariotti examines the feeling of ill-will many have towards the big man, one I have a really hard time understanding as well.
I don’t understand this national mandate that we’re supposed to hate Tyler Hansbrough. I happen to admire him — for making the most of his talent with hard work and 6 a.m. wakeup calls, for passing on the NBA last summer when his stock was at his peak, for staying four years at North Carolina and earning his diploma when most college basketball stars want to shake David Stern’s hand during freshman orientation. But for some reason, probably because he wears the Carolina uniform and has a baby face and has been gushed over by Dick Vitale for years, he continues to reign as America’s most disliked player. Gets to the free-throw line way too much? Only because his bull-rushes to the basket are unstoppable and require Wrestlemania moves by frustrated foes. Flops too often? What’s he supposed to do, defy gravity when they’re pulling him to the floor? Wears a pouty look? I’d say it’s the look of a kid who has had nothing handed to him and wonders when it will be taken away, perhaps when he sits on an NBA bench or doesn’t make it on the next level. The face of Carolina basketball, the blue blood of all programs, religion as sport?
In the past, we’ve talked about the type of pro Hansbrough will make, and the consensus from the comments seems to be that he won’t be all that great. But, there is no denying that he is an unbelievable college talent playing for one of the most stories programs of all-times. And, like Jay, I wonder why that is so offensive to so many.
Hey, if you actually hate a college hoops program when Bernie Madoff and assorted terrorists are out there — well, see a therapist. Hansbrough has been a credit to the collegiate experience and has cemented a memorable profile in self-made excellence. If you spend any time around him, you realize he’s far more humble and downhome than haughty. While explaining why he didn’t wave, he also made it clear what the scoring record means to him in the country’s most prestigious conference.
March Madness is about transcendent performances and players — along with the lasting memories they create. So why not sit back and enjoy Hansbrough’s last march through March?